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CATs the way for students to learn English

PUTRAJAYA: Rural students will be the first to experience a new way to learn English using the Cambridge Accessible Tests (CATs).

It has three stages, primary, core and prep, with each having nine levels.

Students will undergo a placement test to determine which level they will be placed in and have to complete each level before moving on to the next.

Progression from one level to the next signifies an increase in language proficiency.

English Language Teaching Centre (ELTC) director Dr Mohamed Abu Bakar said the details have yet to be finalised.

“About 40 primary and secondary schools will be identified within the next month to pilot the new online assessment system.

“We want to focus on lower band and rural schools which do not have much outside classroom exposure to English,” he said.

He said CATs was meant to be used as supplementary material for students outside classroom hours and is based on the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) for language proficiency.

CEFR is a guide developed by the Council of Europe to gauge foreign language proficiency.

Dr Mohamed said the material will be bilingual to cater to weaker students and will also be “self-managed” by them.

He also said that CATs was touted as a “unique, high-quality and low cost solution to learning English.”

He added that this was part of the ministry’s efforts to reach an 81% passing rate in the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) English Language examinations.

Education Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid, who announced this yesterday, said rural schools will be chosen to pilot the CATs.

“It’s important that we see how to improve English Language proficiency among rural school students,” he said after explaining the implementation strategy of the English Language Education to benefit students.

“At the very least, we want them to be able to communicate in the language,” he added.

Mahdzir said a working committee will be formed to monitor and implement the assessment system, including the pilot which is expected to start in August.

The project is in partnership with Cambridge Malaysia Education and Development Trust (CMEDT) and will be spearheaded by its executive chairman Tun Ahmad Sarji Abdul Hamid, and Education director-general Tan Sri Dr Khair Mohamad Yusof.

Mahdzir said the assessment system was ready for implementation and teachers were undergoing training to use it with the ministry’s ELTC.